A test of conservative strength and a table-setter for next year's Iowa caucuses, the Ames Straw Poll is taking place in the Hawkeye State on Saturday.
Six Republican candidates have actively campaigned in the event: U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain, U.S. Rep. Thad McCotter (R-Mich.), U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.).
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney will also be on the ballot, however, the three GOP contenders have not aggressively sought to lock up support in the straw poll.
Ames Patch reports that write-in votes will be allowed for the first time at this year's event.
Texas Governor Rick Perry won't be on the ground in the Hawkeye State on Saturday; however, the Republican hopeful is still making waves with news of his intention to run for president. His name will not appear on the Iowa straw poll ballot.
We're following the latest developments to unfold in Iowa. Check out the live blog below.
The former Gov. announced his departure on ABC's “This Week with Christiane Amanpour," which provided HuffPost with an early copy of the show's transcript. His official statement:
"I'm announcing this morning on your show that I'm going to be ending my campaign for president, but I'm very, very grateful for the people of Iowa, the people of this country, who I had a chance to make my case to, and for my supporters and staff and friends who've been so loyal and helpful. I really appreciate all of them.
I wish it would have been different. But, obviously, the pathway forward for me doesn't really exist. And so we're going to end the campaign."
By at least one measure, tomorrow could well be the highpoint of the Michele Bachmann campaign. She is scheduled to appear on all five Sunday morning talk shows: ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox and NBC. In the trade, that kind of sweep of overexposure is referred to as a "Full Ginsberg," so named because a previously obscure lawyer of that name -- who happened to be a family friend of Monica Lewinsky's and therefore her counsel -- appeared on them all back to back to back to back to back. By the time he was done he had permanently worn out his welcome and shown that he was in over his head.
Will Bachmann do the same? The other main precedent is more encouraging. . Barack Obama did it as president to sell his health care bill. It passed.
-- Howard Fineman
U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) weighed in on Bachmann's win on Saturday night. According to the Des Moines Register he said, "I think that it showed that the personality and the charisma and the candidacy of Michele Bachmann eclipsed the best of efforts to try to build an organization to try to get people to people to come to the straw poll."
Click here to read more.
The Bachmann campaign has released the following statement regarding the Ames Straw Poll results:
Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann has issued the following statement after winning the 2011 Iowa Straw Poll:
"I want to thank the people of Iowa for this tremendous victory. Together we sent a message that we intend to make President Obama a one-term president. The Iowa Straw Poll was a important first step in what will be a long race for the presidency. Now we turn our attention toward winning the Iowa Caucuses and taking our message of reining in wasteful spending, keeping taxes low, growing our economy and creating jobs to the people of New Hampshire, South Carolina and all 50 states."
With the announcement of the Ames Straw Poll results, I drew the following conclusions:
- Bye-bye T-Paw
- Perry as a last-minute write-in bests a weak Mitt
- Combination of Bachmann and Paul strength will generate more questions about the wisdom of doing a straw poll at all
- Newt, with 385 votes, needs to drop out
- Santorum is in danger with a fourth place finish in a state where evangelicals matter so much
- Romney supporters argue that this will help Mitt by pitting Perry against Bachmann for the evangelical/Tea Party vote
- Ron Paul is about to become a MAJOR headache for the GOP
-- Howard Fineman
Paul Campaign chairman Jesse Benton issued the following statement after the straw poll results were announced:
“Dr. Paul is surging in this race, and today’s results show the strength of his grassroots support and top notch organization.
“These straw poll results, our growing poll numbers and our strong fundraising shows that our message is resonating with Iowans and Americans everywhere.
“Our message was the same in 2007 as it is in now in 2011, but this time we have quadrupled our support. That means our message is spreading, our support is surging, and people are taking notice.
“We are uniting a coalition of longtime supporters, fiscal conservatives, constitutional conservatives, independents, tea party and anti-big government activists to take on the Washington establishment.
“Today, Ron Paul has emerged as a top tier candidate and is a serious contender to win the Republican nomination and the Presidency.”
The Pawlenty campaign issued the following statement on the Ames Straw Poll Results:
Congratulations to Congresswoman Michele Bachmann for her victory in today's straw poll. We made progress in moving from the back of the pack into a competitive position for the caucuses, but we have a lot more work to do. This is a long process to restore America -- we are just beginning and I'm looking forward to a great campaign.
Michele Bachmann emerged the winner of the Iowa straw poll. More information to come.
The first numbers are bleeding out.
The number we know for sure is how many people voted: 17,000, according to the state party. That's the second highest amount of straw poll votes since they held the first one in 1979. The highest number of votes was in 1999, when George W. Bush and Steve Forbes duked it out -- Bush won -- and drew a total of 23,685 votes.
Here are the estimates of vote totals for each candidate:
Michele Bachmann appears to have blown the doors off this thing, with reports of at least 6,000 votes. Ron Paul aides tell me they passed out 4,700 or 4,800 tickets. And there are reports of more than 3,000 tickets passed out by Pawlenty.
Again, these are not official numbers, but if they are right, then Bachmann is the big winner today, and Pawlenty has some very hard questions to answer about whether his campaign has any future at all.
-- Jon Ward
|@ jonward11 : ron paul's people say they may have close to 5,000|
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee handicapped the straw poll just now in the press file. I asked him about what it will mean for Tim Pawlenty if he doesn't do well.
"Whoever of the two Minnesotans comes out on top," he said, referring to Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann, "they come out of here on the shoulders of their teammates. The other one may go out on a gurney."
"It may be that some people are a little more positioned and are going to stay in and some who decide that their donor base is going to dry up," he said.
But, he advised Pawlenty to stay in the race.
"A lot of things can happen. A person can go out and say one thing that gets blown up. So part of it is just staying on your feet. It's going the distance," Huckabee said. "And so even if Pawlenty doesn't do well here today, the question is does he have enough support, and has he streamlined his operation to the level that no matter what the results are he can stay on his feet and keep fighting, because it could be that a couple of the candidates in front of him stumble, fall and have to be hauled off. And if that happens, the only way you can lose at that point is not be on the track."
As for Rick Perry, Huckabee said that he is about to come under much harsher scrutiny than he has so far received.
"Candidates don't get the hard questions prior to getting in. They get them the day after. I've always said the best day of your life is the day before you announce. God help you after that," Huckabee said.
But, Huckabee said, those who think Perry will come into the race and be able to knock Romney off his game easily are mistaken.
"The question may be what will Romney do to Perry. The one thing Romney's got going for him is it's not his first rodeo," Huckabee said.
Notice that Huckabee, who does not like Romney, said "the one thing." He continued, and said of Romney, "He's been on the back of the bull before and it's a bruising experience, and he has the advantage of having ridden it for a while."
-- Jon Ward
There's talk that there are lots of write-in votes. That potentially means a slow count. It also means that Perry's people -- and there have been quite a number here -- may have done some good last minute work at signing up write-ins. Estimates of the total vote range from about 9,000 to 15,000. If Pawlenty doesn't win, despite all the endorsements garnered and money spent, the conventional wisdom here is that he's finished. Bachmann needs a strong second-place finish to be a serious player going forward. Ron Paul is Ron Paul.
-- Howard Fineman
Iowa Patch's Don Wyatt reports:
The voting is over and the counting has begun. A few members of the crowd are still in their seats waiting for the results, which organizers estimate will be released around 6 p.m. Central time. The media area is still filled with journalists working to meet their deadlines.
Click here to read more.
The buzzards are circling around Pawlenty already, as we await results from the straw poll. The expectation is that Bachmann wins, and Paul probably comes in second, unless he pulls off a stunning upset. Most people here expect Pawlenty to place third. There is talk of fourth behind Rick Santorum.
Reporters are already discussing whether Pawlenty is out by Halloween or Thanksgiving. Pawlenty's campaign will come out after the results are out and declare they are moving forward, but one Republican source said the campaign will "die a financial death" if the results are as bad as expected. Donors will look at his lackluster performance here and decide there is no reason to give to him over Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann or Mitt Romney.
-- Jon Ward
The mood at Tim Pawlenty's tent just a few minutes before voting closed at 4 p.m. Central Time here in Ames was deflated. The Christian band Sonic Flood played for a small group of supporters who were still around. Most sat in chairs. In one of the more interesting things I've seen today, a woman in a Ron Paul shirt sat raising her right arm -- a popular expression of worship with evangelical Christians -- as the band played.
I ran into Gentry Collins a few minutes ago. He ran Mitt Romney's Iowa campaign in 2008 but is unaffiliated this year. He pointed out that Pawlenty's choice of tent location had not helped him on a day when he needed every edge he could get. The location, which cost less than the more prime spots, was on the far side of the Hilton Coliseum from where straw poll participants were able to vote. And for a group of supporters who were mildly supportive but not that enthusiastic, it made getting them to pull the lever (or press the electronic button) for Pawlenty that much harder.
-- Jon Ward
As the polls close in the straw poll, here is the final rundown from one of the state's real experts, Professor Dennis Goldford of Drake University:
As he sees it, Pawlenty still has by the far the best statewide organization, run by Eric Woolson, a local operative who brought Mike Huckabee to victory here four years ago. Huckabee's wife is working for Pawllenty and T-Paw has the most endorsements and operatives throughout the state.
But Bachmann has put on a very professional organization push here at the straw poll -- enough, perhaps, to help her match Pawlenty stride for stride. "I don't know what she's got statewide, but she's done a very good job here," said Goldford, author of a definitive book on the caucuses called "The Iowa Precinct Caucuses: the Making of a Media Event."
As for Ron Paul, he will do well in Goldford's estimation, but not well enough to win. "There's a floor under Paul's level of support, but there is also a pretty low ceiling."
-- Howard Fineman
|@ jonward11 : Mood at Pawlenty tent is kind of deflated. Voting closes in 10 min|
Iowa Patch posted a video of performers singing a song about Ron Paul at the Iowa Straw Poll.
Click here for more live updates from Patch.
|@ jonward11 : McCotter is playing with his band. They're pretty good #ames|
|@ IACaucuses : #iastrawpoll voting ends at 4pm., results about 6 central.|
|@ howardfineman : Our HuffPost Patch Iowa editor here says T-Paw may do better than expected cuz of lots of endorsements. Not flashy but it could work.|
|@ michaelpfalcone : Iowa GOP Chair @mattstrawn reacts to @TheHermanCain #iastrawpoll speech: "Wow, how about that!"|
|@ howardfineman : Paul has most intense, loud supporters; bachmann the most cheerful and newly organized; T-Paw the longest lines but not the buzz.|
Michele Bachmann is pulling out all the stops: Randy Travis is performing in her tent right now.
-- Howard Fineman
Michele Bachmann's campaign staff is taking the high road in a mini-feud with FOX News over an awkward moment in the debate last Thursday night. After one commercial break, the camera cut to the stage and showed that Bachmann was off stage and not in her spot -- an absence duly noted by a seemingly startled debate host Bret Baier. Bachmann supporters later complained that FOX had undercut her by violating an agreement not to show the stage until everyone was in place.
It was a potentially sensitive moment because questions have been raised -- unfair ones, in her camp's view -- about Bachmann's history of migraine headaches. "We're not going to comment on what happened," said spokeswoman Alice Stewart. "Michele got to make her points and clear up misconceptions. Everybody had a chance to take breaks during two-hour broadcast, Stewart noted.
But a source close to FOX management said that Bachmann's handlers had insisted in advance that she be able to touch up her makeup during each commercial break -- and she had been warned that there was not enough time to do so. Trying that, FOX officials said, would risk her not being back on stage in time. "She was warned," the source said.
-- Howard Fineman
Herman Cain is now on stage at the Iowa Straw Poll.
Iowa Patch reports:
Cain: Our economy is stalled because the administration doesn't recognize that the engine of growth is the business sector.
He calls for cutting taxes, eliminating capital gains taxes.
"Uncertainty is killing this nation."
Cain: Entitlement programs must be restructured so we shift to an empowerment society.
The Cain doctrine is that we will be our own best customer. America will be its own best customer.
"Secure the border for real," Cain said to a loud ovation. "Stop screwing around."
Click here for more updates from Patch.